Protect Your Back When Shoveling

It is that time of year again, when Mother Nature has shown us no mercy and the snow continues to pile up outside our doorways.

Many of us dread going outside to shovel because it is windy and cold, while others are concerned about the ramifications it will have on their bodies as it can lead to stiff and painful back aches. Here are some tips and tricks on how to stay safe while shoveling this winter season.

  1. Make sure that you have a shovel that fits your height. A shovel that is too short will cause you to lean too far forward, while a shovel that is too long can be difficult to lift.
  2. Wear a pair of gloves with good grips. This will decrease the chances of the shovel slipping and you compensating with back muscles to catch it.
  3. When lifting heavy snow, stand in a staggered squatting position and lift with your legs versus bending over at the hips and lifting with your arms.
  4. Take breaks and shovel the driveway in sections.
  5. Before a fresh snow, apply salt to decrease the amount of snow you have to shovel.
  6. Ask family, friends, and neighbors to help if you are fearful of hurting your back.
  7. Stretch after shoveling to decrease back pain and stiffness.

Suggestions for Back Stretches:

  1. Standing or sitting trunk rotations – while standing or sitting, place your hands on your hips and twist your upper body to the side like you are turning to look at something, then repeat on the opposite side
  2. Standing or sitting trunk extension – while standing or sitting, place your hands on your hips and lean backward
  3. Knees to chest – laying on your back, bring one knee up to your chest and wrap your hands around your thigh to give the leg a little squeeze then repeat with the other leg
  4. Lower trunk rotations – laying on your back and knees bent, rock your legs side to side until you feel a stretch in the low back

Trunk rotations:

Trunk extension:

Knees to chest:

Lower trunk rotations: